Stinnett: Watchdog group not what it seems

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Cannon County has a new political watchdog group. It is called Cannon County Concerned Citizens Committee (C5); however, it feels more like a Milli Vanilli tune.

While it sounds good, it is not what it seems.

Community watch groups and activists are good and they are important during election years when the idea is to educate voters on job descriptions, what particular district they are in and the voting process in general.
In order to work these groups must be without political bias or an agenda.

On the surface the C5 ideas are solid. Underneath, it is not a committee that is free of political bias or without an agenda; therefore, it will never work.

In fairness to every candidate on the ballot for the General Election in August, I believe it is necessary to inform citizens of information I am privy to regarding this committee.

For starters, C5 is running an ad in this week’s Cannon Courier informing citizens of a “Voter Education Opportunity.” The plan is to have a political forum and invite all candidates in all races. They will have a chance to present their platform and there will be questions. Exactly who is asking the questions is still a mystery.

The concept of the committee began roughly six weeks ago. That’s about the time I was approached regarding my interest in joining the group. I was interested but my position at The Cannon Courier, plus the fact I cover County Government, led me to believe it would be best not to be on the committee; a position affirmed by Courier owner and publisher Ron Fryar. Nonetheless it was agreed I would cover the meetings and events.

Then a comment was made that concerned me. A charter member informed me this group wanted to “get rid of Mike Gannon.” I wanted nothing to do with any committee that would have any political agenda so I opted not to participate.

Weeks passed following that initial meeting and then I was informed the C5 Committee would be having its first official meeting Tuesday (June 27).

One day after this initial meeting candidates were being invited to a political forum that appears to be very poorly organized. As a result, many candidates don’t have time to organize or already have plans for the day of the forum (July 12) and will opt not to participate.

Those who don’t attend or participate should not be viewed as unwilling to put their views out for public consumption. Rather, they probably would have preferred more prep time for such a forum.

Civic groups or activist groups will never work when political bias is involved. This one reeks of such. The disclaimer at the bottom of an ad running in this week’s Cannon Courier reads “paid for by: Cannon County Concerned Citizens Committee (C5).

This is also misleading.

When the advertisement was placed the cost was to be billed to a political candidate running for a position in Cannon County Government; however, that candidate’s name is not associated with the advertisement.

Perhaps candidates have caught wind of this group’s political bias and opted not to participate in any forum because it is clear the committee is not without political bias. To form such a group and reach out to candidates under the premise of informing citizens when it seems more of a set-up to blindside certain candidates is a concern.

According to its purpose and vision statement, C5 hopes to increase interaction between the electorate and our elected county officials. It hopes to increase citizen knowledge of the issues facing Cannon County. It hopes to increase voter knowledge and understanding of the candidates running for elected office in Cannon County and their qualifications, platforms and ideas for addressing the challenges facing Cannon County. It wants to serve as a conduit for raising public awareness of issues and challenges for Cannon County. It also hopes to serve as a monitor of Cannon County Government’s compliance with the open-government or sunshine laws.

These concepts are good; however, the C5 Committee was sunk the minute it allowed itself to organize with a political agenda. As a result, I believe the group will never make it.

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Tony Stinnett
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Members Opinions:
July 10, 2014 at 11:45am
I am not affiliated with the C5 group in any capacity nor have I ever been asked to join it and my knowledge of the group holding this event came from this week's edition of the Cannon Courier.

However Tony, I would like for you to name one political group that doesn't have an agenda? Everything from PETA , Freedom Riders, Suffragettes, to the EPA and every known political party has an agenda which is to promote the ideals and beliefs that best represent that group. That is the very definition of what this country was founded on. Even our Declaration of Independence had an "agenda" as you call it.
To think that this group or any other group wouldn't have an agenda is extremely naive and narrow minded in my opinion and actually has nothing to do with the forum at all.

As far as the questions that might be asked during a forum like this it also seems simple to me.

When you choose to run for an elected office you become an open book for anyone and everyone to read as you should be. If you don't want people to dig into your past then you better put it out in front of everyone or stay at the house and don't run.

You are a candidate for School Board and your actions and decisions could affect my child if you are elected. As a parent it is my duty and responsibility to make sure I know every candidate who could make those decisions for my child has common sense, is trustworthy and makes public and personal decisions in the past and present that reflect good judgment.

The same goes true for any office that is up for election and I take that very seriously because this is my community, where I was born, where I have lived my entire life, where I have raised my family and where I pay taxes.

I have no idea who is involved with this C5 group and I honestly don’t care. I do applaud any group that is working to ensure the candidates running for office are held to a standard that is best for our community. You can believe that the “group will never make it”, but groups like that have been making it for years despite the naysayers like yourself.

July 11, 2014 at 7:49am
It sounds like C5 needs to make a full disclosure of its agenda, mission statement, and membership so that Cannon County citizens can fully understand what this organization represents. The citizens can then judge for themselves if the objectives merit participation or interest.
July 13, 2014 at 10:35am
Bonnie you absolutely NAILED it without the un-necessary bias that was presented to the citizens in this article.

Your simple and concise statement would have made a complete story without all of the hoopla that didn't need to be printed or implied.

Very well said in my opinion!
July 14, 2014 at 7:21am
where is your name mentioned in the article Tony wrote?
July 14, 2014 at 10:00am
It isn't, but the bias is evident lately and I and many others would like to see a complete story that simply just told the facts and didn't try to sway public opinion.

Like Bonnie said above:
"The citizens can then judge for themselves if the objectives merit participation or interest".
July 14, 2014 at 2:23pm
After reading the article I see nothing but facts being stated, the only public opinion being swayed is by 1 person leaving multiple comments? After reading the comments I am left with the perception that someone has a special or hidden interest with the C5
July 15, 2014 at 7:43am
So the forum was scheduled for July 12. Today is July 15. Did the forum take place? What were the results of the forum? Is there an in-depth follow-up story? Readers want to know.
July 15, 2014 at 9:25am
Well awc96 (who is conveniently anonymous by the way--which suggests they have a special or hidden interest in this debate), if you actually knew all of the facts then you along with everyone else who knows them would know that there is definite bias and facts left out of this story and others that have been written lately.
I would be more than glad to share them with you if you would like to contact me (which I know without a doubt you won't). I am in the book and all you have to do is call.
Lastly, if you knew me then you would know that if I was affiliated with any group such as this C5 Committee then you would know that I would absolutely, positively, 100% without a doubt sign my name to it and make it very public that I was a part of it.
If I am a part of it, if I am on it or if I believe it then know for certain that I don’t care who knows it and I certainly wouldn’t try to hide it.

Your post would carry a lot more weight to me if you weren’t trying to suggest I was hiding behind something while you remain hidden behind a made up name where you can post randomly without anyone knowing who you are or what you stand for.
July 15, 2014 at 9:30am
Bonnie to answer your questions, it is my understanding that the forum did not take place for a couple of different reasons.

1. I heard one of the candidates was going around town telling all of the other candidates not to show up because it was a set up.

2. There was a Commissioners meeting scheduled at the same time and several candidates were at that meeting.

3. I heard there was a lack of interest from the candidates (probably because of reason #1.)

4. In my opinion it was set up poorly and could have and should have been handled entirely different than it was.

Long story short, there was no forum on the 12th and I doubt there will be one because some candidates have entirely too much to lose to stand up and explain their years in office or come up with a viable plan for what they plan to do if they get re-elected.
It is my opinion they had rather remain silent because they know if they open their mouth they are doomed.
July 15, 2014 at 10:13am
Bonnie, there was no forum. It was canceled following the aforementioned column. The facts as they are laid out in the column are just those ... facts. I intentionally did not name names in my column as to not get into that type of thing; however, the facts are the facts. They were all fairly represented without going as far as naming names. My purpose was not to name names or hurt anyone. My purpose was to inform citizens of what was going on behind the scenes with this group, and I did. The forum itself was quickly thrown together one day after the group had its first meeting. I believe timing right before early voting was more important to the group in regard to the forum than doing it right. Had the group planned and organized such an event weeks in advance perhaps it would have worked. There is no "other side" to this story. There is no attempt to sway public opinion, just to inform.
July 15, 2014 at 11:28am
Tony to quote what you sent me in an email explaining your side of this story "I don't want to get into a war of words with you", but this article is only one part of the complete story and it is not 100% factual as you suggest.

What you wrote is the very definition of hearsay because there is no one to back up your version of what you say you heard or anyone to refute what you printed. That to me is not good journalism simply because anyone could walk into your office and say they heard something or they were there to represent a particular candidate and you could present it to the public as “fact” which from what I understand is exactly what happened.

If a letter to the editor is presented to you or any other editor for publication you have a policy that requires you to verify that the person who wrote it be contacted and confirmed before you publish it. Are you saying that that rule does not apply to someone walking into your office and placing a political ad in the paper and saying it is on behalf of another candidate? What’s to stop anyone from coming in and doing that if that is the case? Again, you could have simply reported an unbiased article using the same questions and left it to the public to determine if the forum was legit or not. That would and could have been a very good piece.

I will totally 100% agree with you that “Had the group planned and organized such an event weeks in advance perhaps it would have worked”.
It should have been promoted. It should have been a neutral moderator that no one could have questioned their integrity or motives. It should have included specific questions for each candidate and time limits should have been set. It should have had questions from the citizens of Cannon County and there should have been no audience participation just like you see in national debates or it would have turned into a fiasco.

I still believe participation would have been low or at least some candidates would not have participated because as I said above their record for their years in office would have been hard to justify or past decisions that have been made would have been hard for some candidates to overcome.

Sometimes in a campaign silence is your best friend!
July 15, 2014 at 10:50pm
Thanks to all for the continued dialog and explanations.
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